I just observed a wonderful strategic discussion pertaining to the ins and outs of community building and consumer generated content at Supernova 2006. I have highlighted some of the points made by the panel which consisted of the following participants:
Craig Newmark (Founder of Craigslist)
Saul Klein (VP of Marketing at Skype)
Tina Sharkey (Senior VP of Network & Community Programming at AOL)
Mena Trott (Co-founder Six Apart)
Gil Penchina (CEO of Wikia)
Tina Sharkley pointed out that AOL has been doing communities for a very long time and based on her experiences she believes that people want to be a part of a smaller community (i.e. a AIM contact list is an example of a smaller community). She also talked about a new product called AIM Phoneline that will give users another way to communication online but this time with voice. Tina went on to say:
“The user is at the center of everything we (AOL) do.”
She went on highlight how with AIM Pages they are looking to open up the API’s for the open web to help build the product.
Gil Penchina explained how Wikia, the sister site to the popular wiki site Wikipedia, is trying to bring people together. They feel the larger and more inspirational the topic the easier it is to do that. Gil believes that people are generally good but that a few very well organized bad people. So Wikia lets anyone contribute and then monitors the wiki to squash the evil doings of the bad ones.
In a similar fashion to Wikia, Craig Newmark said that Craigslist is letting the community form the community. They have created the site and now they get out of the way. Craig mentioned the Katrina disaster situation as a prime example of that as the New Orleans Craigslist site created a life of its own after the Katrina disaster. Craig said they do not to anything to reach anyone relying on word of mouth.
Mena Trott of Six Apart says that she likes to observe but doesn’t always participate in large communities. She says it is the auditorium vs. the living room fee l and prefers the living room. She also explained that using the product is as important as what you are doing when developing the participatory product. Additionally, Mena explained how she is "not personally a big podcast fan" but believes that audio and video are adding a personal touch to blogging.
Saul Klein of Skype explained that Skype is still in the early stages of understanding how voice plays its part on the web. SkypeCasts are a new way for people to engage in conversations online with 100 people or less. He is excited about the fact that Skype has released an API that is available for people to take and help push the development of the product to new heights. Craig Newmark also showed excitement by sharing a fantasy which included having the ability to add a "click to call" feature to classified advertisement on Craigslist but says that in doing so they do not want to distract the user from their sole function for finding what they are looking for. Interestingly, eBay (which owns Skype) just introduced a similar feature last week.
For additional details on the panel check out this post on the Supernova blog.